Don’t Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross is a Polish-inspired YA fantasy debut with a fairy tale feel.
CONTENT WARNING: gore, suicide
When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.
Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.
But promises are all too easily broken.
Ren is the queen of the forest, which is being overrun by the golden dragon and the monsters that follow its path. She’s a combination of fierce and vulnerable, and she’s torn between two worlds. Ren is a true child of the forest, she’s surrounded by wilderness and raised by animals, while living in the remains of a glorious castle:
“Ren loved those chandeliers. They reminded her of what her forest had once been. She held on to that dream; she knew, because she couldn’t let go of knowing, that one day, her forest would look like that again. One day, she’d stop it. One day they’d drive the evil out. One day, even the burns would fade.”
Lukasz is my favorite character. He’s the last heir of a long line of Wolf-Lords, the men who can be relied on to fight dragons and emerge victorious. As the story progresses, we learn what happened to the 9 brothers who slowly disappeared, and his desperate journey to find the last brother who went missing.
“For a thousand years, our people have run with wolves and slain dragons. We are heirs to gold and fire, baptized under ice, destined to inherit a tradition as ancient as the hills themselves. Whatever lengths we travel, Lukas, whatever worlds we visit: we shall be buried in the shadow of the Mountains, beneath the blessings of wolves.”
I loved how the story felt like hearing a Polish fairy tale, even though I’m not well-versed in Polish fairy tales or folklore. The characters were interesting and complex. They did fall into the lack of communication trope, which I find frustrating and overused, but I do love the enemies to lovers trope, so it kind of evened out in my opinion. Also, don't get worried about the spelling. Polish words are notoriously difficult to sound out if you aren't familiar with the language, but there's an easy to follow pronunciation guide at the end of the book.
Ren and Lukasz both came with their own scars — Ren’s from only seeing the cruel side of people, and Lukasz from always being on the outside of society, always being different from others. It shows in their world views, and makes them more believable and realistic characters:
“There was no point in trying to find good in them. Trying to find compassion, or kindness. She needed him alive for the same reason she had needed to bury those humans in the clearing: it was for her forest.”
“It was the first time that Lukasz realized, no matter what praise they received, that he and his brothers stood apart. They would never truly belong — never be accepted — among this world of paved roads and elegant parties.”
There was a lot of action in the story, but parts of it still felt like it was a little slow moving for some reason, if that makes sense? I mean, it wasn’t boring at any point, but it seemed as if the pacing was off. Overall, I enjoyed the setting, the dark tone, and the characters.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 12
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars